Dear prime minister,
Thank you for your phone call yesterday morning in which you asked me to leave government. While disappointing, this is for the best.
It has been my privilege to serve as home secretary and deliver on what the British people have sent us to Westminster to do.
I want to thank all of those civil servants, police, Border Force officers and security professionals with whom I have worked and whose dedication to public safety is exemplary.
I am proud of what we achieved together: delivering on our manifesto pledge to recruit 20,000 new police officers and enacting new laws such as the Public Order Act 2023 and the National Security Act 2023. I also led a programme of reform: on anti-social behaviour, police dismissals and standards, reasonable lines of enquiry, grooming gangs, knife crime, non-crime hate incidents and rape and serious sexual offences.
And I am proud of the strategic changes that I was delivering to Prevent, Contest, serious organised crime and fraud. I am sure that this work will continue with the new ministerial team.
As you know, I accepted your offer to serve as home secretary in October 2022 on certain conditions. Despite you having been rejected by a majority of party members during the summer leadership contest and thus having no personal mandate to be prime minister, I agreed to support you because of the firm assurances you gave me on key policy priorities.
These were, among other things:
1. Reduce overall legal migration as set out in the 2019 manifesto through, inter alia, reforming the international students route and increasing salary thresholds on work visas;
2. Include specific ‘notwithstanding clauses’ into new legislation to stop the boats, i.e. exclude the operation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), Human Rights Act (HRA) and other international law that had thus far obstructed progress on this issue;
3. Deliver the Northern Ireland Protocol and Retained EU Law Bills in their then existing form and timetable:
4. Issue unequivocal statutory guidance to schools that protects biological sex, safeguards single sex spaces, and empowers parents to know what is being taught to their children.
This was a document with clear terms to which you agreed in October 2022 during your second leadership campaign. I trusted you. It is generally agreed that my support was a pivotal factor in winning the leadership contest and thus enabling you to become prime minister.
For a year, as home secretary I have sent numerous letters to you on the key subjects contained in our agreement, made requests to discuss them with you and your team, and put forward proposals on how we might deliver these goals. I worked up the legal advice, policy detail and action to take on these issues. This was often met with equivocation, disregard and a lack of interest.
You have manifestly and repeatedly failed to deliver on every single one of these key policies. Either your distinctive style of government means you are incapable of doing so. Or, as I must surely conclude now, you never had any intention of keeping your promises.
These are not just pet interests of mine. They are what we promised the British people in our 2019 manifesto which led to a landslide victory. They are what people voted for in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Our deal was no mere promise over dinner, to be discarded when convenient and denied when challenged. I was clear from day one that if you did not wish to leave the ECHR, the way to securely and swiftly deliver our Rwanda partnership would be to block off the ECHR, the HRA and any other obligations which inhibit our ability to remove those with no right to be in the UK. Our deal expressly referenced ‘notwithstanding clauses’ to that effect.
Your rejection of this path was not merely a betrayal of our agreement, but a betrayal of your promise to the nation that you would do “whatever it takes” to stop the boats.
At every stage of litigation I cautioned you and your team against assuming we would win. I repeatedly urged you to take legislative measures that would better secure us against the possibility of defeat.
You ignored these arguments. You opted instead for wishful thinking as a comfort blanket to avoid having to make hard choices. This irresponsibility has wasted time and left the country in an impossible position.
If we lose in the Supreme Court, an outcome that I have consistently argued we must be prepared for, you will have wasted a year and an Act of Parliament, only to arrive back at square one.
Worse than this, your magical thinking – believing that you can will your way through this without upsetting polite opinion has meant you have failed to prepare any sort of credible ‘Plan B’.
I wrote to you on multiple occasions setting out what a credible Plan B would entail, and making clear that unless you pursue these proposals, in the event of defeat, there is no hope of flights this side of an election. I received no reply from you.
I can only surmise that this is because you have no appetite for doing what is necessary, and therefore no real intention of fulfilling your pledge to the British people.
If, on the other hand, we win in the Supreme Court, because of the compromises that you insisted on in the Illegal Migration Act, the government will struggle to deliver our Rwanda partnership in the way that the public expects. The Act is far from secure against legal challenge.
People will not be removed as swiftly as I originally proposed. The average claimant will be entitled to months of process, challenge, and appeal. Your insistence that Rule 39 indications are binding in international law – against the views of leading lawyers, as set out in the House of Lords will leave us vulnerable to being thwarted yet again by the Strasbourg Court.
Another cause for disappointment – and the context for my recent article in The Times – has been your failure to rise to the challenge posed by the increasingly vicious antisemitism and extremism displayed on our streets since Hamas’s terrorist atrocities of 7 October.
I have become hoarse urging you to consider legislation to ban the hate marches and help stem the rising tide of racism, intimidation and terrorist glorification threatening community cohesion. Britain is at a turning point in our history and faces a threat of radicalisation and extremism in a way not seen for 20 years.
I regret to say that your response has been uncertain, weak, and lacking in the qualities of leadership that this country needs. Rather than fully acknowledge the severity of this threat, your team disagreed with me for weeks that the law needed changing.
As on so many other issues, you sought to put off tough decisions in order to minimise political risk to yourself. In doing so, you have increased the very real risk these marches present to everyone else.
In October of last year you were given an opportunity to lead our country. It is a privilege to serve and one we should not take for granted. Service requires bravery and thinking of the common good. It is not about occupying the office as an end in itself.
Someone needs to be honest: your plan is not working, we have endured record election defeats, your resets have failed and we are running out of time. You need to change course urgently.
I may not have always found the right words, but I have always striven to give voice to the quiet majority that supported us in 2019. I have endeavoured to be honest and true to the people who put us in these privileged positions.
I will, of course, continue to support the government in pursuit of policies which align with an authentic conservative agenda.
Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP
Member of Parliament for Fareham